UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


Iran launched its first satellite late on 02 Feb 2009 UTC.
USSTRATCOM has issued numerous elements of two objects in approximately a 55.5 deg, 245 X 378 km orbit.

“Safir-E Omid” (Emissary of Hope)

Third Satellite Booster Orbital Launch Attempt

© By Charles P. Vick (All Rights Reserved)

Senior Technical Analyst


Satellite Launch Attempt Safir-III

The Islamic Republic of Iran launched its first unmanned satellite into earth orbit late on February 2, 2009 UTC between 18:36-18:38 GMT. In so doing Iran became the ninth nation to launch its own satellite in honoring the 30 th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. USSTRATCOM has issued numerous two line elements of two objects with object-A usually the satellite in approximately a 245 X 378 km orbit at an inclination of about 55.51 deg, with a period of orbit of about 90.76 minutes. The rocket stage Object-B was apparently placed in a slightly higher orbit of 245 X 440 kilometers with a period close to 91.38 minutes at an inclination of 55.55 degrees.  

Iran was in fact giving every indication on August 17-18 th 2008 that with in a week or so of the launch failure it would launch the planned Omid (Hope) satellite on the third Safir launch vehicle. This presents the possibility Iran parallel processed two Safir launch vehicles for this launch campaign. Close study of the already launched vehicle on the pad verses the one seen in the hanger MIK horizontal assembly building suggests that the vehicle in the hangar was the back up Safir-III satellite launch vehicle to be flown soon. This expected launch attempt was reconfirmed on August 23, 2008 by the President of Iran “ Iran has announced that the country is set to send its first remote sensing telecommunication satellite into space in the near future.” (13, 14) There was also video imagery from the Safir-II launch of what appears to be a second launch facility one valley over with a larger gantry already built for a newer larger launch vehicle possibly the for the Taep’o-dong-2 class satellite launch vehicle design expected by 2010.

Safir Program Set Back Indirectly Acknowledged by Iran

After the November 26, 2008 successful 40 minute sounding rocket vertical probe ballistic flight into space by the Kavoshgar-2 (Explorer-2) Iran acknowledged that the Safir program had suffered a set back by saying it required two more flight test without admitting it has failed so far. That set back is believed to have been determined back in October after reviewing the previous flight tests results. Kavoshgar-2 was launched by a two stage solid propellant tactical missile with a third scientific recoverable apparatus section attached to a recovery parachute. The launch displayed the characteristic white gray solid propellant exhaust contrail versus the black hydrocarbon contrail seen with Shahab-3B launches. The scientific section utilized a space laboratory and data monitoring and processing unit as a part of its instrumentation. (17) It is clear that once the set back’s reasons were identified they developed the solutions to resume the program on the State planning schedule without repeating the flight test regime again.

Iran indicated that the Safir (Messenger or Ambassador or Emissary or Envoy) satellite launch vehicle must apparently undergo two additional successful flight tests in a row in order to finally be cleared to launch Iran's first satellite “Omid” (Hope) on its fifth or sixth launch as presently planned. Iran was therefore not expected to achieve it planned satellite launch by the end of the present three year plan at the end of March 2009. Its next three year plan starts on April 1, 2009 the planning of which is expected to be impacted by this set back on at least one or two other separate larger more advanced space booster programs being developed. Safir is a test bed for the required technology for the follow-on launch vehicles. How much of an impact this will have on the longer term satellite launch vehicle development and Safir programs remains to be seen.

This was then followed on September 24 by the Iranian president stating before an audience of USA Iranian residents as FARS reported from the “Redorbit” translation "Today - thanks to the sanctions by bullying powers - the Iranian nation has become nuclear. It has uranium enrichment in its grasp and developed the technology to launch satellites into the earth's orbit. It has also developed two-stage and three-stage rockets and can launch them one after the other. Soon we will launch a rocket with 16 engines with the ability to put a satellite at an altitude of 690-700 km high in to space. " This kind of orbit would require the Safir Block-II booster.

The 16 engines is incorrectly translated and actually refers to "Nozzles" not engines. The Safir booster is developed into two and three stage configurations with the first stage utilizing one main nozzle while its second stage uses two main nozzles with six attitude control translation stage separation nozzles for attitude control stage separation translation for roll pitch and yaw control. These continuing description and predictions are following the previous predicted satellite orbiting plan for the period of October 2008 through March 2009 State planning schedule requirements. The separation solid motors also have to be figured in the numbers.

Finally the Satellite Launch Attempt Safir-III

Safir-1, 2 Iranian Launch Vehicle

Iran plans to launch its first domestically built satellite by March 20, 2009 the end of the fiscal three year plan in spite of fundamental program set back's announced in November 2008. This launch date is the original State planning requirement but whether Iran will meet that goal is uncertain based on past performance in spite of official State pressure on the industry government organization. Its pending launch was announced indirectly by the Iranian Space Agency, president of the Iranian Aerospace organization Reza Taqipour on January 27, 2009 . The in fact completed the goal of the State plan before the imposed deadline. It would appear that the Iranians are indeed getting close to perfecting two or three stage launch vehicle technology applicable to ballistic missile with longer range intent.

Iran launched its first satellite late on 02 Feb 2009 UTC. USSTRATCOM has issued numerous elements of two objects in approximately a 55.5 deg, 245 X 378 km orbit.

What Actually Happened in Flight can be estimated

Yes the second stage did separate from the first stage with solid motor retro fire from the inter-stage area as seen externally and second stage solid motors pulling it forward located outside the top instrument guidance section to settle the propellants. Then the second stage started up during staging in this coast translation period. What happened to the inter-stage if anything once the second stage started up is a question in my mind but the first stage did work and successfully separate from the second stage? Second stage ignitions--if it occurred— took place immediately after staging, and this author surmises that it must have gone well as the upper solid motors pulled it free and clear of the first stage. Separation of the two halves of the payload shroud occurred at the much higher altitude of greater than 100-110 kilometers at about 150 seconds in flight.

The night time launch was indeed testing program was a time of launch constraint issue for Iranian requirements.


13. Press TV, Iran Prepares to launch satellite, http://www.presstv.ir/default.aspx#, Aug. 23, 2008, 18:18:38 GMT. P. 1.

14. Reuters, Iran plans to launch telecoms satellite: President, http://reuters.com , Aug. 23, 2008 , 1:03 pm EDT , pp. 1-2.

(15). Strategy Page, Iran And the Paper Submarine, http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htiw/articles/20080826.aspx, Aug 26, 2008 , pp. 1-2.

16. Iran Will Soon Launch 16-Engine Rocket - President, http://www.redorbit.com, (source BBC Monitoring Newsfile from FARS News Agency website, Tehran), September 25, 2006 p. 1.

17. Iran "fires second space rocket", http://news.bbc.co.uk , BBC, 15:50 GMT November 26, 2008, pp. 1-2.

18. Iran To Send Animals Into Space, Tehran, Iran RIA Novosti, http://www.space-treael.com/reports/Iran_To_Send_Animals_Into_Space_999.html, Dec 03, 2008, p.1.

19. Iran to Send Satellite into Orbit by March 20, Fars News Agency. Wed . January 28, 2009, p. 1. http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=8711081392 and http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2009-01/27/content_10727269.htm

30. N. Korea Coluld Export ICBM Capability To Iran, Middle East Newsline, Washington, Dec. 24, 2008 p.1 http://www.menewsline.com

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

Page last modified: 21-07-2011 00:51:51 ZULU